Syria's Assad: Little chance peace talks would succeed - newspaper

LIMA Sat May 18, 2013 6:13pm EDT

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) sits during an interview with journalists from Argentina in Damascus in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on May 18, 2013. SANA/Handout via Reuters

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) sits during an interview with journalists from Argentina in Damascus in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on May 18, 2013. SANA/Handout via Reuters

LIMA (Reuters) - Proposed peace talks for Syria would not curb "terrorism" in the country and it is unrealistic to think they would succeed, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published in an Argentine newspaper on Saturday.

Speaking in Syria with the newspaper Clarin, Assad said he was doubtful that mediation the United States and Russia have proposed could settle a deadly conflict that has convulsed the country for two years.

"There is confusion in the world between a political solution and terrorism. They think a political conference will halt terrorists in the country. That is unrealistic," he said in reference to insurgent groups seeking to unseat him.

Rebels demanding Assad's resignation have also voiced skepticism about the proposed peace talks.

Assad reiterated he would not resign and said peace talks would not make sense because the opposition was too fragmented to negotiate an agreement.

"No dialogue with terrorists," he said. Videotaped excerpts of the interview were posted on Clarin's website.

The Syrian conflict started with mainly peaceful demonstrations against Assad, but turned into a civil war in which the United Nations says tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Islamist militants have emerged as the most potent of the anti-Assad rebels.

On Friday, the outlook for talks appeared to hit snags.

The United States chided Russia for sending missiles to the Syrian government, while France made clear it would oppose any meeting if Assad's regional ally Iran were invited.

Russia's position is that Tehran should be part of any solution.

(Reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi; Editing by Terry Wade and Peter Cooney)

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